Those behind one of Ballarat's busiest opportunity shops have again been left devastated by illegal dumping with vast ramifications.
The Salvation Army Thrift Shop in Norman Street provides a cornucopia of delights, including silk wedding dresses and china tea sets.
The store is the pride and joy of manager Janet Reynolds who devotes herself to the institution, even in the face of the pandemic.
"A lot of businesses are closed because staff have been affected by COVID," Ms Reynolds said. "We want to keep the shop open."
Ms Reynolds said she has built an exceptional team.
"This is like my family," Ms Reynolds said. "People come in to provide a really good service. They're passionate about helping our clients. They might be passionate about the books; they might be passionate about the clothes."
For volunteer Kim McNicoll, the store plays an important role.
"It's a community hub," Ms McNicoll said. "I could be a hermit. Here, you come and you're welcomed."
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Ms McNicoll is highly regarded for the eye-catching displays she establishes, including one with an Alice in Wonderland theme.
"Why can't we be young and funky and bring more people in so we can encourage recycling and repurposing?" Ms McNicoll said. "I try to think of ways to show things off. It encourages more money in the till."
Jenny Carter is another committed worker. She has altruistically laboured every day for five years, and, on Saturdays, is joined by husband, Allan. Neither an aneurysm nor a stroke has kept her from her duties
"I enjoy the companionship," Ms Carter said.
Ms Reynolds and her colleagues have built up a strong rapport with locals.
"Our clients are amazing," Ms Reynolds said. "People spend hours here. They feel safe. They can come in and pick up books, DVDs, and clothes for the kids. Our low prices haven't changed for many years."
According to Ms McNicoll, there is a social advantage for bargain-hunters too.
"The customers who come in here appreciate it," she said. "We can have a yack and a laugh."
It is the city's less privileged who benefit.
"All the money made stays in the community," Ms Reynolds said. "We are so lucky we get so many fantastic donations (and the sale of them) supports an endless amount of programs."
Given staff members' dedication, it is little wonder dumping causes distress. On Monday morning, a grotesque sight was evident. Deposited items included candy canes; a filthy cutlery tray; a Christmas tree; kitty litter; and medicine.
The scene hit hard.
"I've been here six years," volunteer Fay Richards said. "It's the worst I've seen; it's just horrendous."
"I was in tears," Ms Reynolds said. "It's disheartening. We're trying to do a good job for the community. There were eight of us cleaning and getting it off the street. We've run out of trolleys (to move the refuse)."
Scavengers exacerbate the problem.
"It has all been tampered with," Ms Reynolds said. "Most of it will probably go in the bin because it's been contaminated."
By 10am Monday, clothes through which scroungers had rifled had been placed in at least a dozen bags. No item was in a state to be sold.
"It's just another layer for us," Ms Reynolds said. "It's not a very happy start to the week when we're all struggling with what's going on."
Ms Carter is furious with the perpetrators.
"They confuse this with the transfer station," she said. "What money we have to spend on getting rid of that rubbish could be spent on welfare."
Ms Reynolds is in a state of near-hopelessness.
"We're playing cat-and-mouse," she said. "We offer to pick up goods. We're here six days a week. We put new signage on the bins. What do we do now?"
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